The public shaming of America’s CEOs

2015-09-13_11-55-33This shame game just might rein in CEO pay where previous attempts have failed, said Gretchen Morgenson at The New York Times. Once the pay gap is boiled down to an “easily graspable and often decidedly shocking number,” employees and consumers might actually protest, and red-faced corporate boards will be forced to act. As soon as the outlandish ratios begin coming out, we’ll hear from “corporate apologists” that CEOs earn their megamillions, because they deliver impressive returns just like “star baseball players or movie stars,” said Robert Reich at Huffington Post. “Baloney.” The stock market has surged so much over the past three decades, and corporate tax rates have become so generous, that a CEO could have “played online solitaire” all day long and still watched the company’s share price soar

Source: The public shaming of America’s CEOs.

The rhetoric behind CEO pay has become so inflamed that I doubt it is possible to shame them into getting less pay as suggested above.  The basic problem is that these guys think they actually deserve the millions handed over to them.  Most of their egos are so large that they think they are the saviors of their industries.

Carly Fiorina who is currently running for president is a good example of that.  Before she left AT&T for her brief stay at HP she made a decision to move the business unit that I had worked in for almost thirty years.  She decided to put it in a joint-venture with a foreign company.  To us on the inside it became totally obvious that this merger was a huge mistake. The cultural clash that resulted basically brought down the unit and it was sold to a Chinese manufacturer for pennies on the dollar within two years of Carly’s great insight.

She then went on to likewise almost destroy HP. Her decision to buy another computer manufacturer was flawed from the very beginning and most everyone knew it from the get-go. But like a true huckster she manages to find a statistic here or there to seemingly say she made wise decisions.  With the CEO label attached to her name Carly now thinks she can run the country better than anyone else. The tragic thing about it is that some actually fall for her hype.  Her golden parachute was more than $40 million so she has plenty of money to spend on her grandiose scheme to become the leader of the free world.

The basic problem with the entire corporate leadership structure in this country it that it is almost entirely managed by a very small group. They are all, for the most part, CEOs themselves and serve on each others boards. The old saying “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” is the current mantra for corporate America today.

Since most stock today is now in the hands of mutual funds companies who themselves are made up of lavishly provided corporate heads it is almost impossible for any small group of investors to effect a change in this structure. Somethings got to change to reign in CEO pay and parachutes, I just don’t know that it is…

I am that not so smart wise guy in this area…

Pope — CEO Or Spiritual Leader???

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Pope1I spent my first fourteen years in the Catholic church but really haven’t kept up with the details except for an occasional theology study.  I know the picture here is a once in an era event. It has been centuries since a pope has resigned from office. The first thought that came to mind when I saw the picture here is that of two very old men embracing each other. I wish the new Pope Francis a successful reign, or whatever his term is called, no matter how many years it is. He was a Jesuit and I know they embraced simplicity and empathy as their worldview. I hope he carries out that theme in his time at the head of the Catholic church.

I think almost everyone knows that the Catholic church is one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world. If they were a corporation they would definitely be in the top ten or maybe even number one.  They have accumulated vast wealth beyond most comprehension. I also know that their structure is very vertical in nature.  That is the Pope/CEO has the ultimate authority and can veto almost anything that he wants.

I don’t know whether the Pope is like a monarch who is more of a ceremonial thing or like a CEO?  I am thinking maybe a little of both. But I do know that the previous pope has had a rough time of it while he was in office and can understand why he would want to resign and let someone else take over.  I’m sure he is exhausted from all the battles the church has faced during his reign.

I am surprised that the cardinals chose a South American as their next leader. Admittedly South America and Africa are where the most potential growth comes from. But those two continents are also known for bucking the edicts of Rome on occasion.  They just don’t always align with papal authority. Now that one of their own is in charge that may change but probably not.

Ending this post I really wonder just what went on in selecting the new pope. Rome as usual tries to keep this sort of thing hidden. Maybe that is to make it seem more mysterious or spiritual. I don’t know.  I know that most of my years in the church were spent hearing Latin; I didn’t really  know why that was either.  I guess I am just too American in that I want things to happen in the light of day and not behind closed doors or behind hunched shoulders.

I enjoyed all the cartoons about speculation of what went one in the pope selection process.  The funniest one was that the first cardinal to make a basket from half court was the new pope. 🙂  I don’t hate the pope as I think many of my Protestants brothers and sisters are taught so I wish him well in his duties whatever they are.  I don’t want to insult my Catholic friends here but I really don’t think Pope Francis has any different of the track to God than any of the rest of us.  God is just not into hierarchy stuff as the Roman Catholic church is. He is, to continue the basketball theme,  more one-on-one.

Healthcare Spending…

Source: Report: 1% of Americans paid 22% of health care costs in 2009 – USATODAY.com.

Just 1% of Americans accounted for 22% of health care costs in 2009, according to a federal report released Wednesday. That’s about $90,000 per person, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. residents spent $1.26 trillion that year on health care. Five percent accounted for 50% of health care costs, about $36,000 each, the report said.

What this report doesn’t come right out and say is that simply having major surgery puts you automatically in the top 5% of consumer spending  for that year and often in the top 1%.  I had a minor heart event about five years ago that cost about $40,000 so I was part of the “hogging” five percent who are driving up health care for the rest of the population that year.

Another thing this study does not say is that the top 1% and 5% are not the same people year over year but instead just those unfortunate ones who need a surgical procedure during that given time. It is not as if we could deport 1% of our population and therefore drive down out one fourth of our healthcare costs, but I imagine there are some politicians looking into that. (ha). They seem to be willing to shove just about anyone under the bus to drive down Medicare spending and eventually end the program itself. 🙂

I’m not against a doctor earning a good living. They do have to go through years of schooling and internships to get there. But the money some get for a one hour procedure is as outrageous as what some CEOs get for that same period of time!  My heart doctor got over $12,000 for the less than one hour in the cath lab for my heart work. Does he really need that much? My family doctor gets a couple hundred for the same period of time.  And of course us normal slobs in the shrinking middle class get less in three months than my heart doctor got in that one hour.

I’m not a super educated economist but figuring this our doesn’t seem like brain surgery (at $40,000/hour) to me. If you want to drive down healthcare costs we need to be looking closely at the operating room.  The other 98% of the time we spend in the healthcare system doesn’t amount to much compared to that brief time in that sterile room.  Maybe the answer to these high costs lies in the same place as making our cars. Let’s train robots to do all the operating room stuff and put some of these overpaid surgeons into family medicine where they are sorely needed (pun intended).

But what do I know….

Capitalism For Us and Socialism For The Capitalists….

The title to this post came from one of the organizers of the Wall Street protests that are taking place across the country. More power to the people baby!! 🙂  It basically infers that we ordinary people who take risks with our assets (money) have to pay the consequences of when we make the wrong decisions. But the capitalists, meaning those large Wall Street firms, can take big risks and if they are wrong the government will bail them out with our tax money as they are “too big to fail”!

These protests are probably the result of our stagnant economy for the last dozen years or so. The average person has actually seen his wages decrease by 3% in that time while the CEOs and big Wall Street firms have seen huge bonuses year after year. Something is definitely wrong with that scenario and many common people are finally starting to “get it”. When Mr. Bush followed by Mr. Obama decided that all those investment houses and big banks needed to be bailed out it cost us ordinary tax payers billions of dollars. After almost three years the overall result seems to be that the big shots have simply gone back to their old ways (giant risks and giant bonuses for themselves). They are also for the most part hording the money we gave them and not producing the intended jobs that they were to provide.

Being a child of the 60’s it is nice to see young, and not so young, finally getting involved in this process. The only time things like this actually change is when the masses get passionate about it.  We would likely have still had massive forces in Vietnam today if my generation had not forced the issue. The same is true for our times. Maybe next time when they Wall Street types get into trouble due to risky schemes our government will have the nerve to actually let them fail. Looking back on it I don’t see the consequences of that being any worse than what is happening today. We have a larger number of people who are unemployed today than we did at the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

People are just getting fed up with the constantly disappearing middle class jobs. They are fed up with watching those jobs be exported for the sake of the “global economy”. They are tired of seeing what little money they can put aside earning practically zero percent saving rate.  We are just about the only country in the world that does not do something to preserve the financial well being of our citizens. We are about the only country in the world that puts the healthcare burden on our employers instead of having our government take on that task. People are fed up with all this stuff. I hope more and more of us get on board with the Wall Street protests that are happening. Until we do our government will not likely take us or this matter seriously.

Another great quote from these rallies is “Disgust is a massive political force when it finds its way to move” . That is what seems to be happening today. So here is to all you brave souls who are attending these rallies around the country. Rock on Baby, Rock on…..

I Can't Figure It Out, So You Are On Your Own…


Source Article:  Businesses turn to private exchange health insurance – USATODAY.com.

This is an interesting article about how some CEOs are giving up trying to figure this health insurance mess out and passing it on to their employees and pensioners. They just give them a set sum of money and basically hand them over to some former insurance executives for advice. In other words they are on their own. Here are people who are supposedly the cream of the crop in the business world who admit they can’t figure this stuff out. So, how are the their worker let alone their pensioners supposed to do that? This healthcare circus is just getting more ridiculous every year.

We in the U.S. take such pride in being the smartest of the smartest in the world. We boast that we are the only true innovators on the planet! But I kind of think we are in a gigantic bubble of illusion here, especially when it comes to healthcare. The rest of the world has long ago figured out that a single payer system, mostly maintained by their governments, is the only way to keep healthcare costs in line. They spend less and actually live longer than we do.  There are no other industrialized countries that spend even one-fourth of what we do per person for their citizens’ well being.

Come on guys, lets finally admit it that sometimes others outside the U.S. have it more right than we do. Let’s get on the single payer system and get off this constantly increasing healthcare merry-go-round. The employer based healthcare system is totally out of control; let’s replace it with something the rest of the world knows is better.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….